August 17, 2010

Response to Robert Hanson on the math forum @ Drexel

I would like to take your points one at a time,
1) Apparently you have either not seen the textbooks used in NY or PA for teaching algebra 1, or you have a different definition of rote instruction than I do. the text books I have been using for the last 7 years in those two states offer very little other than rote instruction. to the point that the practice questions actually refer back to the “instruction” given a few pages earlier. Usually, the instruction only consists of an example and how it is to be solved.

2)I disagree with your contention that he is implying that math teachers do not know math. He is simply stating that when a person has learned a topic one way it takes a lot of creativity and intelligence to try to teach it in a different way. When we, as teachers, are concocting our lessons it is only natural to fall back on the methods used to impart that same knowledge to us. Since most of us were taught in “traditional” settings it would only make sense that we would harken back to those same tools and methods when we are trying to duplicate the process for our students.

3) The question here is not whether traditional teaching methods work for a select few students. But rather, what will work for the greater majority. Working in low SES, underperforming schools for seven years has shown me that these students do not respond well to the way we are currently teaching math in this country. By the time my students get to me (9th grade algebra) they are already disillusioned with the study of math. I can not tell you haw many times I have had a student ask me, “When will I ever use this in real life?” In order to combat this disheartening attitude I have tried to enrich my teaching with problem based, real life scenarios. While I have not been completely successful in reaching a majority of my students, I have seen great strides in some of them.


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